Fairy tale comes true for Norway

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A young Norwegian’s song about falling in love with a fairy tale swept both him and his country to an overwhelming victory in this year’s Eurovision Song Contest, broadcast live from Moscow Saturday night. Alexander Rybak, who turned 23 during the run-up to the annual extravaganza, was quickly dubbed “Alexander the Great” by local media.

Alexander Rybak was wildly popular after winning the Eurovision Song Contest. PHOTO: NRK

“Our votes go to the cutest guy in the contest,” said the announcer from Iceland when reading off her country’s tally from Reykjavik. She wasn’t alone. Voters from only six of 42 countries taking part in the competition failed to place Rybak among their top three choices and an astonishing 16 countries gave him the most points possible.

The voting started off well for Rybak, with Spain giving him the maximum 12 points, followed by Belgium with 10 and Belarus also with 12. Rybak’s grandparents live in Belarus and he speaks fluent Russian, which also was a big hit with this year’s hosts of the contest in Moscow. Russian voters also gave him the maximum 12 points.Rybak also won more total points than any other performer in the 53-year history of the contest. He ended with 387 points, more than twice the amount secured by the second-place winner, Iceland, and far ahead of an earlier point record set by Finland.

The endearing young musician from the Nesodden peninsula, just across the fjord from Oslo, had been heavily favored to win. The song he wrote as Norway’s entry in the contest isa catchy mix of powerful pop singing and folksy violin playing,all performed energetically by Rybak and acrobatic Norwegian dancers.

Rybak’s victory in Moscow, which came on the eve of Norway’s national Constitution Day celebrations, marked just the third time Norway has won the Eurovision Song Contest. The country has, in fact, had the dubious distinction of failing to win any points at all during one contest in the 1980s.That helped make Rybak’s performance a cause for national celebration, prompting some Norwegians in Oslo to literally sing his song in the streets even when the clock ran way past midnight. “It’s an enormous joy,” singer Elisabeth Andreassen, one of Norway’s few former winners, said on national TV station NRK just after the contest results emerged. She called Rybak “a secure, well-educated classical musician with a supportive family” and said she thinks “he’s just a fantastic guy.”

Congratulations streamed in immediately, with Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg claiming that Rybak’s winning performance “was worth a lot for Norway.” Others called it “a brilliant victory” and an estimated 500 residents of Nesodden who consider Rybak a neighbour cheered his performance loudly at a local community hall. “This is absolutely outstanding,” said a beaming mayor, Christian Holm.

Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) now has responsibility for hosting and broadcasting next year’s contest. The last time that happened was in 1995, when the Norwegian-Irish duo “Secret Garden” won the contest.

Rybak himself was characteristically modest about his win. “When I get as much great response as I’ve had, it’s the Norwegian people who I want to thank,” he said. Norway’s voters, not allowed to vote for their own candidate, gave their votes to performers from Denmark, Azerbaijan and Iceland.